October 4, 2017

All Watersheds Have Two Slippery Slopes

We’re living in a watershed moment. At least that’s clear now.  It’s clear now that both sides of the argument in the same sex marriage campaign are presenting slippery slope scenarios.

And all watersheds have slippery slopes.  That’s the point of a watershed.  In its technical meaning a watershed is the high point in a landscape. So rain that falls within a river’s watershed flows towards that river. Rainwater that lands outside a river’s watershed will flow to a different river.

At least we’re all open to that truth now. I don’t mind that.  There are slippery slope arguments (AKA consequences) to many a decision we make, and this one is no different. How could it be?  It’s fallacious to say that any major ethical decision we make in the public square is somehow hermetically sealed off from any other decisions.

At least the Yes campaign is openly admitting as such now. And that’s a relief.  Perhaps we can all just be honest and say big public decisions change lots of things, and many of those things we can’t see right now.  Some we can.  Some we think we can.  Some we think we can, but we’re wrong. Some we can’t see at all, and they’ll blindside us.  At least let us all have the epistemological humility to admit as much.

This article on the ABC website simply proves that this is the case.  But I’d have to say as far as slippery slopes go this one appeals to our more base instincts. For this slippery slope argument is all about money.  If we ever get to the bottom of a slippery slope we’d all better be hoping that it’s  a big pile of soft money that breaks our fall.  That’s the argument being made.

The author, Mark Humphrey-Jenner, makes the claim that any religious exemptions that are given to protect religious freedoms will be bad for the Australian economy, because people will stop doing business with us due to our perceived or actual discriminatory practices.

Phew, at least we are getting the scare campaigns out into the open!

Time was when the Yes campaign accused the No campaign of being the only side to operate a slippery slope argument, an argument that struck fear into anyone sitting on the fence.  But after reading this article I’d say hold on tight to your wallets, because we’re in for a tough financial ride.

Humphrey-Jenner goes on to the make the point, with no irony detectable, that when certain states in the USA decided to maintain religious exemption clauses, large corporations such as Disney and Marvel boycotted those states, and ensured that there would be financial pain for them.

Hence we should ensure that we don’t fall in to the same trap in Australia and allow religious conviction to override financial profit. We should bow and scrape to large multi-nationals and their pervasive, nay coercive, ways on this matter, even if on every other matter anyone with any moral fibre would never let such a multi-national ride roughshod over people.  Surely that’s what Occupy was all about back in the day, right?

Humphrey-Jenner goes on to observe that: Some musicians cancelled performances there, several major companies boycotted the state, Paypal cancelled a planned expansion, and college sport restricted and boycotted competitions.

Humphrey-Jenner is the associate professor of finance at the UNSW Business School, so you’d expect his eye to always be on the bottom line, but even for a bean counter such as he, that is a breath-taking admission.

Here we are debating the huge significance of the idea of marriage and what it means, and how it affects our understanding of freedoms and identity and all along we’ve been missing the really important dollar factor, and how those who hold out can have the financial life squeezed out of them until they submit.

What Humphrey-Jenner seems to miss, indeed what he is completely and charmingly impervious to, is the idea of a statist overreach in which one jurisdiction punishes another jurisdiction financially for holding to a freedom that has, up until the most recent days in the USA, been the bedrock of all freedoms, liberty of religious practice and conscience.

But I guess when money’s involved, when large multi-national profit making organisations are involved, we can’t be too careful.  And what else would one expect from an associate professor of finance at a well-heeled Australian university?

Humphrey-Jenner goes on to say this:

For companies with myriad disparate shareholders, this involves maximising shareholder wealth. But, as indicated, refusing services to same-sex couples undermines shareholder wealth.

He has the gall to say that at a time when shareholders are also looking for ethical decision making when it comes to investments.  Many a shareholder is keen to take a financial hit to ensure any return on investment is ethical.  That’s why rhino horn companies in China, lucrative market though it may be, are not high up the list on investment portfolios these days in Western markets.

Mind you, it will test our love of money won’t it?  If exemptions are not permitted and you do own a small business in which you have significant emotional and spiritual investment, not merely financial investment, you will have to make some watershed decisions yourself in Humphrey-Jenner’s viewpoint holds sway.

It’s a watershed moment for everyone, that’s for sure, Yes or No.



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